Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UNF Center Seeds Area's Research Development

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UNF Center Seeds Area's Research Development

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad

If the pursuit of knowledge is contagious, Jacksonville is one step closer to becoming infected. Don't worry; it's a good thing.

This week, the University of North Florida announced it created a research center to help businesses and government agencies improve their economic planning and forecasting.

Area agencies without research expertise - both public and private - have long relied on outside consultants to provide such services.

The center is being run by university faculty (many of whom are Ph.D.'s), with opportunities to engage students in research.

Not only could such a center attract researchers, inventors and other like-minded individuals - but it would also encourage and train students to pursue similar paths, organizers say. That directly benefits the First Coast because about 60 percent of UNF graduates live and work in metro Jacksonville, according to university alumni records.

The Center for Economic and GIS Research at UNF will conduct business and market research by contract. GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, allow people to see data points plotted on a map, information that is useful for market analyses or demographic studies of an area. For example, school districts can use the information to determine where to build a campus.

Individual professors at UNF have worked on research projects for others in the past, but now the service will be marketed from one center. Many universities - including the universities of Florida, South Florida and West Florida - have similar programs.

For now, the UNF center's focus is on the local community, but its goal is to become a definitive resource for economic and geographic analysis pertaining to the five-county metro area.

Creation of the UNF research center falls in line with a call to improve the region's research infrastructure by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. …

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